Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Robot subs find Antarctic sea ice thicker than expected link

Antarctic sea ice might be three times as thick as we thought, according to data that may help narrow down one of the biggest uncertainties in the global climate system

From The New Scientist by Michael Slezak

The plot thickens, or should it be the ice?
The most detailed and comprehensive 3D map so far of Antarctica's winter sea ice shows that big parts of it are much thicker and more smashed-up than we thought, in fact, three times as thick.
Data from this map will help us fill in some of the biggest gaps in our global climate models.

 A preliminary 3-D map produced from multibeam sonar data collected by the AUV under an ice floe on 4 October 2012.
The map shows a typical ‘lawnmower’ grid of about 150 x 150 m and the depth bar on the right shows deeper ice in red (up to about 10 m below the surface) and shallower ice in blue.
(Image: AUV team)

The growth of Antarctic sea ice, which reached an all-time record extent this year, is one of the biggest geophysical changes that happen on Earth each year.
"It expands from about four to 19 or 20 million square kilometres each year.
That's more than twice the area of Australia," says Rob Massom from the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart.
"And of course this has an immense effect on the ocean surface: it caps the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean, and it creates a white ocean surface, so affects the energy balance."
Exactly how that winter ice forms – how thick it gets and by what mechanisms – has remained a mystery, leaving a big uncertainty in our current climate models.

For the first time in East Antarctica (2012), climate scientists have produced a three-dimensional map of the surface beneath a sea ice floe, revealing an inverted complex topography evocative of lakes and mountain ranges.

Maps revealing more winter Antarctic sea ice in recent years are based on 2D images taken from satellites.
But the trouble with such data, says Guy Williams from the University of Tasmania also in Hobart, is that "we don't get thickness and so therefore we don't get total change in sea ice volume".

The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) being lowered off the stern of the Aurora Australis during SIPEX-II in 2012.
The data from the AUV is used to make 3-D maps of the underside of the sea ice.
(Photo Wendy Pyper)

Instead, Williams and colleagues used a robot submarine made by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institution in the US to produce detailed 3D maps of huge swathes of Antarctic sea ice.
Using sonar, the submarine mapped three areas from different sides of the continent, which together make up an area equivalent to twice that of the UK (see video).

 A view of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle at work under the ice.
The ship's propeller is visible.
(Photo: ROV team)

On thick ice

"We were surprised by what we saw," says Williams.
They saw ice that was much thicker than they expected, though the survey was not comprehensive enough yet to make strong conclusions about all the winter sea ice in Antarctica.

Previous estimates based on a number of very limited – and probably biased – methods like ship inspection and drilling suggested that only 20 per cent of the winter sea ice was thicker than 1 metre. This study found that 90 per cent of it is more than 1 metre thick, and indeed, 40 per cent is thicker than 3 metres.

The data also hints at how the ice might form, which will be crucial for building future models.
If ice were left to form on still water, it would grow to about 1 metre, says Williams.
Once it gets that thick, the water underneath is insulated from the air and doesn't easily freeze.

This under ice view shows the thick, jumbled structure of ice under an ice floe, which makes it very hard to dig holes through to the ocean surface. (Photo: ROV team)

But the Antarctic sea ice is being buffeted by strong winds, which are being made even stronger by global warming.
So it's getting broken up and pushed up on top of itself, making room for more ice to form.
"We found that 50 per cent of the area was deformed and that was contributing to over three-quarters of the volume," says Williams.

 An aerial photograph taken with the high resolution digital camera in the helicopter, showing part of a survey area or ‘transect’ to the left of the ship with scientists working on the ice.
The roughness of the snow cover is discernible.

The ever-growing winter sea ice isn't entirely surprising.
But working out which factors are driving this growth will help scientists figure out what will happen in the future.
Williams says that one hypothesis was that ice formation could be driven largely by rising coastal winds breaking up the ice, allowing more to form in the gaps.
People are starting to wonder if the deformation processes are changing" he says.
"It's extraordinarily significant work," says Massom.
"These autonomous underwater vehicles, they're giving an unprecedented view. It's almost like looking at the dark side of the moon in terms of sea ice."

Journal reference: Nature Geoscience,

Links :
  • BBC : Antarctic sub gauges sea ice thickness


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

China said to turn reef into airstrip in disputed water link

Airbus Defense and Space imagery dated 14 November 2014 shows Chinese land reclamation operations under way at Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea.
Multiple operating dredgers provide the ability to generate terrain rapidly.
Operating from a harbour area, dredgers deliver sediment via a network of piping.
Photograph: © CNES 2014, Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image/IHS

From NYTimes

A major reclamation project by the Chinese government on a tiny reef 500 miles from the mainland would enable China to land military aircraft there, expanding its reach into the contested South China Sea, analysts have said.

 November 5, 2014 Image of Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Jiao)

 November 17, 2014 Image of Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Jiao)
zoom showing vessel activity

The analysts’ report came as a group affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army hosted an international conference in Beijing on Friday and Saturday intended to showcase President Xi Jinping’s call for a new regional security architecture based on the concept of Asia for Asians, an idea that minimizes the role of the United States.

Harbor being built in the east and airstrip looking to be on the western side,
estimated to be 3 km in length.

“Asian countries bear primary responsibility for the security of their region,” China’s vice foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, said at the Xiangshan Forum held Friday and Saturday by the China Association for Military Science.

 Fiery Cross Reef, which China calls Yongshu Jiao with the Marine GeoGarage (NGA chart)

Fiery Cross Reef, badly called Nanhua Shuidao on the ENC in the Marine GeoGarage
The new IHS imagery, dated 14 November, shows now a new land mass at least 3,000 m long and 200 m wide at its narrowest point.

New satellite imagery reported by IHS Jane’s on Thursday showed construction of a new island about 9,850 feet long and 985 feet wide at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.
The new island would be capable of supporting a runway and apron, the security group said.
Dredgers were also creating a harbor that would be large enough to dock warships, Jane’s said in its report.

AIS satellite tracking of the dredger Tian Jing Hao in the South China Sea shows it has been moving between reefs in the Spratly islands since September 2013.
Source: Bing/China Merchants Heavy Industry Shenzhen Co./IHS

China has been expanding its footprint in the Spratly archipelago for much of this year by moving sand onto reefs and shoals and creating at least three new islands that could serve as bases for Chinese surveillance and as resupply stations for navy vessels, according to Jane’s.
But the report said the dredging operations at Fiery Cross were by far the largest, and were intended to coerce other claimant countries in the archipelago, which include Vietnam and the Philippines, to eventually relinquish their possessions.

 Territorial disputes

In the Beijing forum’s keynote address, China’s defense minister, Gen. Chang Wanquan, who rarely speaks in public, said that China wanted countries to “transcend Cold War thinking,” a reference to the American alliances in the Asia-Pacific region that China contends are used as a containment strategy.
Mr. Chang’s speech did not entirely exclude the United States.
In recognition of the recent accord between Mr. Xi and President Obama for increased consultation between the American and Chinese militaries, he said China wanted to strengthen procedures for coping with crises.
The participants included Western security experts and some defense attachés, including from the United States, but top officials from the Obama administration declined invitations to attend.

In an address to the forum, Gary Roughead, a retired admiral and former United States chief of naval operations, pointedly asked China to clarify its claims in the South China Sea, and to ensure that the claims were compatible with international laws allowing freedom of navigation.
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest trading routes, based on a line drawn after World War II that covers waters south of China, around Malaysia, and north to the Philippines.
Other countries do not recognize the U-shaped line, which encompasses the Spratlys and Fiery Cross Reef.

The plans for an airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef were most likely intended for China to land military aircraft that could monitor an air defense identification zone, known as an ADIZ, that China appears likely to create in the future, said Bonnie S. Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Countries establish such zones to identify, monitor and possibly take military action against aircraft entering the designated area.
“I think it is to allow China to establish an ADIZ,” said Ms. Glaser, who attended the Xiangshan Forum. “To have an ADIZ, they have to have the capability to monitor the airspace. They may need even more than one airstrip to do it.”

In November of last year, China unilaterally announced such a zone over a vast area of the East China Sea, including the airspace over islands that are at the center of a dispute with Japan.
Western officials have debated whether China would soon make a similar announcement concerning the South China Sea.
Most analysts agree that China is unlikely to do so in the immediate future.
But they say China is making preparations — like expanding tiny reefs into islands that can support large buildings and surveillance equipment — for the time when its navy and air force have the capacity to enforce an air identification zone far afield from the mainland.

 Other example of disputed island : 
Nan Wei Tao with the Marine GeoGarage (NGA chart)

 zoom Nan Wei Tao (Digital Globe 2014)

To try to stop China from continuing its land reclamation in the Spratlys, the Obama administration suggested earlier this year that all countries with claims in the South China Sea freeze their building on disputed islands.
China rejected the idea.
The construction at Fiery Cross Reef was an example of Chinese defiance of the American freeze proposal, Ms. Glaser said.

The Spratlys comprise hundreds of reefs, rocks, sandbars and tiny atolls spread over 160,000 square miles, in an area that is closer to the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia than China.
Several governments have claims to islands in the Spratlys, and of those, Brunei and China are the only claimants without airstrips, said M. Taylor Fravel, associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who also attended the Beijing conference.

The new satellite images suggested, he said, that China’s airstrip on the expanded Fiery Cross Reef would be capable of taking more sophisticated aircraft than the airstrip on the Spratlys island occupied by the Philippines.
That airstrip, he said, can only take propeller aircraft.
Jane’s said there was little doubt about the reason for the work at Fiery Cross.
“Given its massive military advantage over other claimants in terms of quantity and quality of matériel, this facility appears purpose-built to coerce other claimants into relinquishing their claims and possessions,” the report said, “or at least provide China with a much stronger negotiating position if talks over the dispute were ever held.”

Links :


Monday, November 24, 2014

Polar code agreed to prevent Arctic environmental disasters link

From The Guardian by 

International Maritime Organisation committee adopts measures to protect the environment in face of predicted polar shipping rush

The international body in charge of sea safety adopted measures on Friday to protect people and the environment during a predicted shipping rush in the Arctic.
But environment groups and insurers said the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee had failed to address key issues including a proposed ban on heavy fuel oil and how to safeguard against cowboy operators.

The committee, which met in London this week, signed off on the Polar Code and various amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention.
These changes, which include mandatory requirements for ship design, crew training and search and rescue protocols, are expected to be ratified by the full IMO next year and come into force in 2017.
Melting sea ice due to global warming and pressure to cut costs makes the Arctic commercially enticing to shipping companies who want to avoid the circuitous, pirate-ridden voyage from China to Europe via the Suez Canal. Tourism, fishing and fossil fuel operations are also looking toward one of the world’s most fragile and extreme environments.

  As more ships navigate the Northern Sea Route the likelihood of something going wrong in such a fragile and extreme environment increases.
Photograph: Jenny E. Ross/Jenny E. Ross/Corbis

Evan Bloom, director of the US State Department’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs said: “More and more people are going to be in the Arctic for one reason or another. In the future there may be [more] fishing vessels... There will be more and more tourism. There will be more and more commerce.”
He says this increases the likelihood of something going wrong in a region where there is currently very little capability to respond in either a search and rescue or environmental clean-up capacity.
Just four ships navigated the Northern Sea Route over Russia in 2010, but by 2013 the number had reached 71.
This summer saw relatively heavy ice cover in the Arctic, causing numbers to drop.
But the long-term trend is towards greatly expanded shipping across the northern extremes of Russia, Canada and even straight across the North Pole.

 Northern Sea Routes Issue (1942)

According to insurer Allianz, Russia predicts a 30-fold increase in shipping by 2020 and an ice-free Northern Sea Route by 2050. China has suggested that by 2020, 5-15% of its trade value - close to $500bn - could pass through the Arctic.

Sven Gerhard, head of hull and marine liabilities for Allianz said these predictions may be exagerrated.
But there are going to be more shipping accidents in the Arctic.
The new Polar Code will require ships to develop a Polar Operations Manual (POM) for each voyage, which is then reviewed and approved within the flag state.
But cutting corners is tempting as the costs of ice-strengthening ships and training expert ice navigators are very large.
There are some flag states insurers will not work with because they are seen as reckless.
“The safety net is only as good as the POM and the POM is only as good as how it is enforced by the flag state. There are many who have both eyes closed,” said Gerhard.
“It’s good to have a framework,” said WWF marine manager Simon Walmsley.
“But how can you guarantee that those rules are adhered to?
The risk is absolutely huge. One oil spill of a decent size will knock out so much in the Arctic. If you have a heavy fuel oil spill there are no recognised methods to clean under ice or during 24 hours of darkness. There is no response.”

Links :


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Strangers at sea link

Without ever having sailed together before, Ryan Breymaier and Pepe Ribes crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a 60-foot monohull, one of five boats in the June 2014, IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona race. 

From NYTimes

Video of the New York-Barcelona IMOCA Ocean Masters race from reporter, Chris Museler, who was 'embedded' aboard Hugo Boss with American sailor Ryan Breymaier and solo sailor Pepe Ribes - who both teamed up for the double-handed race : really caught the feeling of the race and what it takes.
The Ocean Masters founder, Sir Keith Mills, authorized a reporter to chronicle the race from aboard the boats.Only three of the five participating boats agreed to offer a spot. 

Ryan Breymaier is hardly known outside the national sailing community.
In the port cities Barcelona and Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, he is recognized as a skipper of some of the most challenging racing sailboats in the world.

Breymaier’s training and ambitions are aimed at the Vendée Globe, a solo, nonstop, round-the-world race held every four years.
He is the first American in a generation to be considered a threat to the French stranglehold on that race and on the Barcelona World Race, the nonstop double-handed race on the same track.
Pepe Ribes of Spain, a decorated America’s Cup and ocean-racing sailor, shares Breymaier’s ambitions.

In June, Breymaier and Ribes took major steps toward fulfilling their solo sailing hopes by winning the International Monohull Open Class Association Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race.

An unlikely match, the two were thrown together on a boat that was purchased only months before. On the delivery to New York from Europe, the mast broke; the two sailors wound up waiting until the start of the race to work together as a double-handed team.

They proceeded to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a 60-foot monohull, one of five boats in the competition.
“We wound up racing hundreds of 15-minute races all the way across, with each one putting more pressure on us,” Ribes said.
Conditions in the New York to Barcelona Race included drifting, 40-knot winds and breaking waves. Only three of the five starters finished the race.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Planet Earth & Solar time-lapse link

A timelapse of Earth in 4K resolution, as imaged by the geostationary Elektro-L weather satellite, from May 15th to May 19th, 2011.
Elektro-L is located ~40,000 km above the Indian ocean, and it orbits at a speed that causes it to remain over the same spot as the Earth rotates.

The satellite creates a 121 megapixel image (11136x11136 pixels) every 30 minutes with visible and infrared light wavelengths.
The images were edited to adjust levels and change the infrared channel from orange to green to show vegetation more naturally.
The images were resized by 50%, misalignments between frames were manually corrected, and image artifacts that occurred when the camera was facing towards the sun were partially corrected. The images were interpolated by a factor of 20 to create a smooth animation.

Our home planet on the day of the Autumnal Equinox.

To answer frequently asked questions; why are city lights, the Sun, and other stars not visible?
City lights are not visible because they are thousands of times less bright than the reflection of sunlight off the Earth.
If the camera was sensitive enough to detect city lights, the Earth would be overexposed.
The Sun is not visible due to mechanisms used to protect the camera CCD from direct exposure to sunlight.
A circular mask on the CCD ensures that only the Earth is visible.
This mask can be seen as pixelation on Earth's horizon.
The mask also excludes stars from view, although they would not be bright enough to be visible to this camera.

The surface of the sun from October 14th to 30th, 2014, showing sunspot AR 2192, the largest sunspot of the last two solar cycles (22 years).
During this time sunspot AR 2191 produced six X-class and four M-class solar flares.
The animation shows the sun in the ultraviolet 304 ångström wavelength, and plays at a rate of 52.5 minutes per second.
It is composed of more than 17,000 images, 72 GB of data produced by the solar dynamics observatory ( + (

The animation has been rotated 180 degrees so that south is "up".
The audio is the 'heartbeat' of the sun, processed from SOHO HMI data by Alexander G. Kosovichev. Image data courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams.

Image processing and animations by James Tyrwhitt-Drake. 
This animation has be rendered in 4K, and resized to the YoutTube maximum resolution of 3840×2160.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Brazil DHN update in the Marine GeoGarage link

As our public viewer is not yet available
(currently under construction, upgrading to Google Maps API v3 as v2 is officially no more supported),
this info is primarily intended to our Phone/iPad universal mobile application users

(Marine Brazil on the App Store)
and also to our B2B customers which use our nautical charts layers 

in their own webmapping applications through our GeoGarage API.

 DHN coverage

1 charts has been updated and 6 charts have been added since the last update

DHN update September 26, 2014


Today 451 charts (506 including sub-charts) from DHN are displayed in the Marine GeoGarage
Don't forget to visit the NtM Notices to Mariners (Avisos aos Navegantes)


Living under sea: Japanese visionaries unveil underwater city plan link

Illustration of the whole complex,
from the sphere just beneath water's surface to the research station beneath the seabed.
(Shimizu Corp.)

From Washington Post by Ishaan Tharoor

It's the next frontier: Not long after scientists landed a probe on a comet millions of miles away in deep space, a Japanese construction company has announced that it wants to go in the other direction.
Shimizu Corp. revealed blueprints for an astonishing undersea city: a vast research and residential station some 10 miles in length that begins just below the sea's surface and burrows beneath the ocean floor.

 A full model of “Ocean Spiral,” from the ocean’s surface to its floor

Dubbed the 'Ocean Spiral,' the project is projected to cost $26 billion and take five years to complete, although the research for the technology required is still in its infancy.
If ever completed, it would make real visions of a latter-day Atlantis in the deep.

It has the support of a myriad research firms and Japanese government agencies.
A research station at the bottom of the structure would would study ways to excavate energy from beneath the sea floor.
A 15-kilometer length spiral would coil up from there to a giant sphere some 1,500 feet in diameter that would have hotels, apartments and commercial areas, and could accommodate as many as 5,000 people.

 Interior of the residential sphere. (Shimizu Corp.)

"This is just a blueprint by our company, but we are aiming to develop the technology that would enable us to build an underwater living space," a Shimizu spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.
The ocean water temperature differentials between the various parts of the structure would help generate power.

 The "blue garden" sphere at the top of the Ocean Spiral. (Shimizu Corp.)

Japanese construction companies are known for their outlandish aspirations.
Obayashi Corp., a Shimizu rival, has already announced it plans to engineer a near 60,000-mile-long "elevator" into space, scheduled to be ready by 2050.

Shimizu has already unveiled plans for a floating metropolis (see below) and a solar ring around the moon.

 Green Float : a Floating City in the Sky

The Ocean Spiral blueprint comes at a time when an increasing number of governments, multinationals and international organizations are scratching their heads about how to cope with rising sea levels and the effects of climate change on those most vulnerable to it.
Christian Dimmer, an assistant professor of urban studies at Tokyo University, thinks such planning should not just be the preserve of powerful private corporations.
He tells the Guardian:
We had this in Japan in the 1980s, when the same corporations were proposing underground and ‘swimming’ cities and 1km-high towers as part of the rush to development during the height of the bubble economy. It’s good that many creative minds are picking their brains as to how to deal with climate change, rising sea levels and the creation of resilient societies – but I hope we don’t forget to think about more open and democratic urban futures in which citizens can take an active role in their creation, rather than being mere passengers in a corporation’s sealed vision of utopia.
Links :